Friday, June 22, 2007

Duck A L'Orange (Who Knew It Was Kosher?)

We’re going to leave Sissy where she is at the moment. She has a lot to think about on her long drive to Jim’s drug dealer’s house and the dark and winding country roads might help her focus. She’s easily distracted you know and you can’t be distracted when you have important decisions to make. We’ll get back to Sissy in a little while. For now, we’re going to Israel in 1966.

Dov’s Bar Mitzvah was the biggest event the tiny Orthodox community of B’nai Bor had seen since the Rabbi’s youngest daughter was married three years prior. Dov came from a family of musicians and he was the firstborn son of a firstborn son, of a firstborn son, all the way to probably Abraham and Isaac. All of the firstborn son’s in his family became cantors and religious scholars. His father was a cantor and he was expected to be cantor. Dov also had an uncle who was a Kabalist in Jerusalem and another uncle who could sing opera, but instead chose to be a very religious doctor.

For seven generations no one on either side of Dov’s family had ever committed a single sin. People swore when Dov was born that he would probably be the messiah. That’s a lot of pressure for a Bar Mitzvah boy. Imagine your entire village showing up to hear you sing and recite complicated texts thinking you are the son of God, when you’re far more concerned about what Naomi Klepterberg looks like in her underwear than saving humanity from its imminent destruction. In fact you believe that the sight of Naomi Klepterberg in her underwear might be stunning enough to save humanity from its imminent destruction and spare you the effort. That’s how Dov felt.

Dov broke his family’s seven generation winning streak of purity. He sinned constantly. The day he was born, no the HOUR Dov was born, he committed his first sin. He looked around at all the other babies in the hospital and thought vainly to himself that he was by far the best looking baby in the place. It was true, the other babies didn’t have a thing on Dov. He was the most beautiful child ever born in B’nai Bor, cementing the town’s assumption that he was really the messiah, although by the time his Bar Mitzvah rolled around he was definitely going through an awkward, gawky teen phase. Still, the villagers were not deterred. So, messiahs have always to be beautiful? Someone said the King of Kings can’t get a little acne? He’ll grow into the role, they believed. Everyone’s funny looking when they’re thirteen.

Dov’s sinning didn’t stop there. He questioned things, got into things, and made messes on things where messes shouldn’t be. He made faces in shul and thought appallingly impure thoughts. He thought school was purely for socializing with the other children and he didn’t always look forward to the high holidays as much as he ought to have. Dov’s parents were worn out. They were relieved that his younger sister Esther turned out to be far more pious and obedient. They hoped their third child, with whom Dov’s mother was pregnant at his Bar Mitzvah, would come into the world placid and ready to study the Talmud (she didn’t).

Dov’s problem was that B’nai Bor was dull. Life there was just a series of religious observations which continued in a never-ending cycle year after year. The only time they had any excitement was if there was a war or if Rakesh Farman showed up in town, having broken out of prison yet again.

Dov wasn’t too keen on wars, which were sadly common in Israel then like they are now, but he loved when Rakesh Farman came to town. He was about the only one, because Rakesh Farman was the most notorious criminal in all of Israel. Rakesh started off as a hero in the Israeli army, fighting for Israel’s independence. A seven foot tall giant, he is said to have killed hundreds of enemies in battle and to have committed selfless acts of heroism. One day Rakesh’s troop was going somewhere by train and the train had to stop short and nearly derailed. This ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem, except that Rakesh, wanting to show off, was actually on top of the train, happily riding along on its roof. When it stopped, Rakesh went flying and landed on a rock in the middle of the desert. Anyone else would have been killed, but Rakesh survived his head injury. Unfortunately, he was never quite the same. He had brain damage that turned him into a violent sociopath.

No longer a soldier, Rakesh became a gangster. Previously Israel had no gangs or mafias, so Rakesh got busy organizing some crime. He robbed banks, held shopkeepers at gun point and devised elaborate schemes to cheat people out of money. The man had no boundaries. Not a day went by that Rakesh neglected to beat someone up or steal something and he never tried to hide his misdeeds. After robbing a bank, he’d stroll right over to the nearest café for a Turkish coffee where he’d sit and nibble halvah until the police came to haul him off to jail. It didn’t matter. He’d just break out anyway, because no prison could hold Rakesh Farman.

Every time Rakesh knocked someone out, stole the cash box from the kosher butcher or ransacked a restaurant because their baba ghanoush was too acidic, the police came and locked him up. Every time they locked him up, he escaped. After about eleven times the whole thing was a joke, but what could they do? The police couldn’t just let him wander around the country at everyone’s peril.

You wouldn’t think that Rakesh Farman would have any need to visit B’nai Bor. What would a legendary criminal want with a poor Orthodox town out in the country? No one had any money to speak of, the local café was awful (run by polish immigrants, their hummus always tasted like old cabbage) and as we established before – nothing ever happened. You couldn’t even get into a good fistfight in B’nai Bor because the orthodox men wouldn’t fight, and who could blame them. No one in their right mind would fight a seven foot sociopath anyway. When Rakesh Farman came to town people scattered and women home alone locked their doors and shuttered their windows. When Dov saw his mother suddenly jump up from mending socks or boiling carp to secure the house, a thrill ran through him because he knew Rakesh was on his way and something would happen.

Rakesh Farman came to B’nai Bor to harass, or in his mind VISIT, his sister Sharona, who was the only woman in the village to dye her hair flame red like a rooster. Sharona’s husband was none other than Dov’s Uncle Mendel, the local jeweler. Rakesh had no other family besides Sharona and in his rare lucid moments, where bits of his old, non-sociopathic brain still worked, Rakesh wanted to maintain a sense of family. It didn’t hurt that Sharona married a jeweler either, because that meant there was always something good to steal in their home and Mendel certainly never challenged his gigantic angry brother in law.

Mendel started keeping his gold and jewels in his shop where they would be safe, but on his next visit Rakesh picked Mendel up by his collar and carried him much like a mother cat carries a kitten, through the streets of B’nai Bor to his shop and made Mendel give him every single valuable in the place. He had to borrow money to avoid losing his business after that. Then Mendel got a safe and hid that in his house. Rakesh figured it out and tore the entire house apart to get at it.

Finally Mendel and Sharona had it with Rakesh wreaking havoc on their lives. They packed up the few remaining belongings that Rakesh hadn’t smashed or stolen and moved to America; New York to be exact. Rakesh wasn’t allowed to leave the country so there was no danger of him chasing them overseas. Uncle Mendel easily found work in the diamond district and they made plans to start a family. Without the stress of Rakesh they could finally have children.

All this disappointed poor Dov because his hero, the larger than life, tall tale of a man that was Rakesh Farman, no longer came to his town. On the nights that Dov didn’t lay in bed thinking of Naomi Klepterberg, he tried to imagine where Rakesh was and what he was doing. Kids in school told him that Rakesh lived in a cave. Some people said the police gave up and just let him do what he wanted. Rakesh lived by his own rules. He decided where he was going to be and when. No one was the boss of Rakesh Farman.

Rakesh Farman did not show up at Dov’s Bar Mitzvah. Uncle Mendel and Aunt Sharona couldn’t come either, but everyone else attended and thoroughly enjoyed the duck a l’orange. Dov did well, though perhaps not as well as the Messiah might have.

At Bar Mitzvahs, which are religious ceremonies marking and then celebrating a thirteen year old boy’s entrance into manhood, it is customary for the boy’s father to make a speech. You’ve seen the same sort of thing at a million weddings. Dov’s father, a jovial and gregarious man, delighted the party guests with songs before he made his speech. He talked of how proud he was of his son, remarked on Dov’s energetic and curious nature, and made some jokes about the time Dov got in a car and started to drive it away. Dov was five years old when that happened. Then Dov’s father, Cantor Eli explained how Dov was now a man and how he hoped to send his son to a prestigious Yeshiva. He said he loved Israel more than life itself and that he loved B’nai Bor even more than that.

“I regret,” said Dov’s father solemnly, “That you will not be able to watch my son continue to grow and that you will not know the baby my beautiful wife carries, but know while we are in America, that we will be thinking always of you and always of home and we will try to return often.”

A collective gasp sounded in the Temple’s small banquet hall. No one knew the Elis were moving! Dov almost fell off the stage. No one told him anything about it, but he was about to run out of the synagogue and start packing. America?? They had TVs and food he never heard of. They had movie stars and radio stations, magazines and busty blonde women. America had Hollywood and pretty soon America was going to have Dov Eli too!! This was the best Bar Mitzvah present ever and to think, he thought all he was getting was an engraved prayer book and a set of personalized yarmulkes!

Over the murmur of the crowd Cantor Eli made his announcement.

“The Eli Family is moving to New York.” He said.


Anonymous said...

Good grief... you can even jump into another culture/country/era! I love it.

Wide Lawns said...

That's why I became a writer! No boundaries. You can do whatever you want. I'm like Rakesh Farman! I make my own rules.

JDogg said...

Welcome Dov! Another chapter and another tributary of the river that is your story....

Anonymous said...


You continue to blow me away with your incredible talent. Love your stories!!! Keep up the great work!!!


Anonymous said...

"Eli's comming - hide your heart, girl..."

Can't wait for the next update!!

Anonymous said...

Love the change in direction! I can't wait to ready the continuing adventures of Dov.

Anonymous said...

you're wonderful. big hugs, sunny

Anonymous said...

Ah...Dov's your father, right?

Aarwenn said...

What makes you such a wonderful writer is your voice--your style is so unique. The person it reminds me most of is Gabriel Garcia Marquez, although he has been one of the world's greatest writers for many years and is slightly more polished. But really, you remind me very much of him. I'm in awe; I hope you're writing your book as fast as you can, because you will be huge. HUGE.

Wide Lawns said...

WOW!! Best compliment ever. One Hundred Years of Solitude is my favorite book of all time!! Marquez won a Nobel prize. So yeah he is SLIGHTLY more polished than me. Gosh, but just a little.

And yes, Dov is my dad.

MP said...

Please don't wait a week to continue the story!!

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking...Dov must be her dad. I love Dov, and he gets to hang out with Sissy. Its gonna be a Helluva Twosome! Only sissy could satisfy his naughty side!

ADW said...

How much do I love thee? A whole helluvalot.

I can not believe how much you have grown as a writer from the Wide Lawns Days.

Subservient No More fits you perfectly.

Anonymous said...

This is so good. You just can't make up stuff and have it be this good. SNM you are an excellent writer. Each installment is actauly a chapter in a book. Collect al the installment and you will have an excelletn book.

Also what is your new job?

HippieChyck said...

am i glad i stumbled upon your site. love it, love it, love it.

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